Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Hoppy Amber Ale with Brettanomyces Custersianus

Hoppy Amber Ale with Brettanomyces Custersianus

You know how some brew days keep getting pushed back and pushed back and pushed back?  Well, this was one of those brew days.  Big things, little things, you name it, it came up.  The bright side of all of this is that the recipe changed and evolved so much during the time from the initial planned brew day in late July to this past weekend that it is very different than when I started.  I also think that I am going to be more pleased with the outcome of this one that I would have been with the other recipe.  I have brewed about 15 gallons of beer during the time that I should have been brewing this one and have dialed in a couple things since then that will help this one come along nicely.  Also, the temperature in the house is now more conducive to the yeast I am planning on using.

The yeast for this beer is East Coast Yeast’s ECY19, brettanomyces custersianus.  Al describes it as “A newcomer to brewing with wild yeast, this species of Brett displays a strong ester profile of mango, pine-apple, and peach esters with limited to no barnyard funk. Acidity is likely to increase over time. Suggested fermentation 60-74F. Other characterisitics TBD.”  The description seemed like it would have lots of great play with the hop aromas I generally like to have in my IPAs, Pales, and Hoppy Ambers.  This was also likely going to be the last pale or amber I brew this season and I want to be able to enjoy those fruity aromas well into the first part of winter.

I learned a couple of key things from my last 100% Brettanomyces fermentation that I will carry over to this one.  One is that I want to give it more time in the primary before I transfer to the keg to let the Brettanomyces attributes come out a bit more than I allowed the previous brew to do.  Also, I may let it sit in the keg for a spell longer  before tapping as the cold conditioning really brought out a lot in the Brettanomyces on the previous beer.  Secondly, I am going to bottle more of them.  I sent off the previous beer to a few different competitions and ended up with about 3 extra bottles and am excited to see how they age.  Normally, one doesn’t usually age hoppy beers as the hop aroma diminishes over time but the Brettanomyces should keep the fruity aromas right where they should be, in the bottle.  Note: just read a “Ask Mr. Beer Wizard”  Q&A about where the hop aroma goes in bottled hoppy beers after a while…short answer is; inside the lining of the cap.  Who knew?  Not me.

Recipe, Notes, & Details

·         11.25 lbs Valley Malt 2 Row
·         .75 lbs Crystal 60
·         .5 lbs Special B
·         .25 lbs CaraRed

·         153 F for 60 minutes
·         168 F for 15 minutes

·         60 minutes over 7o minute time frame.  Tank ran out and had to switch tanks.

·         1 oz Columbus @ 60
·         .5 oz Chinook @ 10
·         2 oz whole leaf Cascade @ 0
·         1 oz Chinook during chill at 150 F
·         1 oz Citra Dry Hop
·         1oz Simcoe Dry Hop

Yeasts & Adjuncts:
·         1.5 liter starter of East Coast Yeast ECY19; Brettanomyces custersianus.  Not decanted.

·         Collected 6.75 gallons
·         Fermentation volume: 5.75 gallons approximately
·         Pitching gravity @ 1.050

·         30 seconds pure oxygen

9/29/12- beautiful preboil color.  Spot on for what I was going for here.  Will likely darken during boil but should still be where I want it post fermentation.

9/30/20120- No signs of fermentation at 24 hours.  Continuing to agitate.  Temp is steady at 64 F

10/1/2012-  Very active fermentation with temps at 62 F.  Temp raised to 65 by next day.  Will keep there and slightly raise over the next day or two to 70F.

10/10/2012- Gravity is 1.018.  Fermentation is still going. Less strong now, but still chugging along.  The look is wonderful, very deep red almost burgundy color.  Will be more brilliant once the yeast flocculates out more post fermentation and cold conditioning in keezer.  The taste is already great, un refined as it is still working, but wonderful none the less.  Lots of big fruit flavor.  Juicy fruit mixed with deep ripe stone fruit.  Plum.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Perdue; Spelt Saison Tasting Notes

Perdue; Spelt Saison Tasting Notes

I have been enjoying this beer for a little while now.  It has always been a solid drinking beer that has hit the spot and quenched the sensations I was aiming for when pouring it out.  However, today, as fall is fully setting in around us it does a good job of helping me to reflect and smile on a good summer of brewing.  The leaves are changing, it is now in the low 40s/high 30s here some mornings, and our garden is being put to bed.  But, I can pour a bulb of this beer and when I taste it, it reminds me of sitting on the back porch not too long ago when it was 90 degrees.

This beer was a success in a lot of ways because it was a mystery to me for a couple of reasons.  I was using a new Saison Yeast (ECY08), a new grain (Spelt), and I built the recipe around what I have had success with in other saison recipes I have created and enjoyed.  But the biggest success comes from the fact that it is a pleasure to drink.  It does exactly what it should; it tastes great, smells great, and reminds me of a wonderful summer.  This was the summer of brewing for me...I brewed five of them alone and while this one wasn't the last one I brewed (That would be Autumnal Saison, which is sitting on a brett cake right now) it is my favorite thus far.

Mission accomplished.

Look: I must say that this beer turned out to be much more golden than I had expected.  During fermentation, both secondary and primary, it was a lot milkier looking than expected.  I had chalked it up to the spelt being high in proteins but was still interested to see how it would clarify.  The yeast did a wonderful job of chewing everything up and this beer turned out a wonderful yellow & golden straw color that just screamed refreshing.  The fluffy white head doesn't stay around too long but once it thins out it remains for the duration of the drink.  There is also minimal lacing.

Aroma: This yeast is really the star of the show here.  In similar recipes I can usually pick up some of the Styrian Goldings in the nose but this one really showcases the yeast.  The overwhelming characteristic on the nose is peachy spiciness.  The nose is also slightly tart but that really bleeds into the peachy spice.  I also get hints of wheat and lemon/lemongrass.  The aroma is right where I want it.  I really like my saisons to be spicy and peppery.

Taste: On the front end I get a bit of tangyness.  This balances really well with the nose.  The lemon/lemongrass really comes through in the taste as well.  There is a pleasant alcoholic warmth that you pick up on the backend of the taste that does not last too long.  The taste is also quite dry but does not feel thin at all.  

Mouthfeel: As mentioned before this beer is dry and a bit tart.  When you get a sip in your mouth you get that tartness in the cheeks and the tongue.  The tartness doesn't last long and you are left with that nice alcoholic feel.

Drinkability & Thoughts: I really like this beer.  It is fun to drink and leaves you with a nice refreshing feeling.  This beer is meant to be consumed during the hotter months of the year.  When brewing this again next year I would like to brew it earlier in the summer when the temps are warmer.  I want to do this not only because it will drink better during that time of year but because it would be fun to push this yeast to higher temps to see what kind of esters it produces when pushed to the higher end (and maybe beyond) of its ranges.  I would also like to use different hops with it next time.  Maybe some German Tradition and or Hersbrucker to accentuate the spiciness of the yeast and a finishing yeast that compliments the fruitiness.

Overall, it was a crowd pleaser and it was fun to use the two different spelts I got from Valley Malt.

10/7/2012-  Took second place in Category 16 (Sub cat E; Belgian Specialty) Belgian and French Ales in Southern New England Regional homebrew competition.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Autumnal Saison

Rye Saison; Autumnal Saison

In another effort to make use of the remaining warm weather and some recent offerings from my Valley Malt Malt of the Month Club I decided to try my hand at brewing one last saison of the summer that would be a nice warm drinking and crisp saison to enjoy as the leaves begin to change, the wool shirts get taken out, and more nights are spent by the fire pit.   Also, I did find myself smiling at the idea of brewing a saison on Labor Day as saisons history goes; I think it was quite fitting.

The Rye that this recipe was built around was grown in New York and malted in Hadley, Massachusetts.  It had a projected SRM of around 11.5 Lovibond and had a nice amber hue to it post malting.  The smell of it was simply wonderful.  Strong bread notes with hints of chocolate and an undertone of spice.  Upon crushing the grains I was overwhelmed by the intense deep dark chocolate smell.  I had thought about adding some crystal to the grist to ensure an amber hue but upon smelling this decided against it and that the play between this and the German Pils would be really something nice and stand alone on its own nicely.

I had never crushed Rye before so I did a bit of research and “field testing” to get the rollers set just right before crushing the Rye.  I ran the Rye through by itself, re-adjusting the rollers, mixed the Rye back into the uncrushed base malt and ran that through as normal.  The smell of the two together was quite nice.  The chocolate was definitely less pronounced but the two combined gave me nice malty, bready, and still a bit spicy grist.  The same could be said about the mash once I had mashed in.

Back to what I was going for with this beer before I get too off track:  If you remember from a while back, I brewed and bottled my Saison de Posey.  That particular saison was finished with WLP645 Brettanomyces Claussenii, cloudberry honey, and some Jolly Pumpkin dregs.  It had been sitting on that wonderful yeast cake for about 5 months and once I racked the beer off of it I was able to rack a bit of my Fletcher Sour Brown (pre soured) onto it as I put that into secondary and pitched its ECY01 mixture….more on that later.  I racked a bit of beer on top of the cake for a couple reasons…A.) the color of Fletcher was beautiful and could add a bit of deep color to the saison and B.) because it is hard to let a good yeast cake go when you have spent so much time with it.

My thought was that this beer would play out really well if it were to spend some time in secondary hanging out with this yeast cake.  The spice of the rye, the fruitiness from my aroma hops and the primary fermentation with ECY08 Saison Brasserie, and the bitterness/piney characteristics of the bitter hops should all balance out nicely.  I wanted this beer to have SOME of those fruity characteristics but not be too far swayed in that direction as I picture this beer being a bit more spicy, alcoholic, and having more “crisp evening” feel than a “wicked hot summer thirst quencher” feel.  Looking for balance here people…or maybe harmony is a better term.  I have certainly turned this into an idyllic beer haven’t I?

Will I accomplish all of this?  I am not sure, but I am confident this will turn into a good beer.
Recipe, Notes, & Details

9 lbs German Pilsner
2.5 lbs Amber Rye (11.5 lovibond)

150 degree single infusion mash @ 60 min

60 min

1 oz Columbus @ 60 min
.5 oz Simcoe @ 5 min
.5 oz Citra @ 5 min

Yeasts & Adjuncts:
ECY08; Saison Brasserie starter.  Made ¾ liter starter well in advance. Aerated on stir plate.  My wife had a baby so I had to postpone brew day.  Cold crashed starter in fridge.  Warmed up to room temp on brew day, re-suspended yeast and pitched without decanting.

Saison de Posey yeast cake for secondary fermentation.  WLP645 and Jolly Pumpkin Dregs.

6.5 gallons pre boil
Pre boil gravity 1.045
Original Gravity: 1.057
Gravity at Secondary:
Final Gravity:

45 seconds of oxygen

9/5/12- 48 hours after pitching slight signs of fermentation began manifesting at 4 pm.  By 6 pm there was a full on 6 inch krausen that required blow off tube.  Fermentation began at 78 F, ramped up to 80 and held there.

9/8/2012- Gravity already down to 1.012.  Transferred before the ECY08 was done fermenting so that I could leave a bit of fermentables for the brett cake to chew on.  Pre pitching onto the yeast cake the saison was a beautiful golden color.  Almost exactly what I was hoping for.  I am hoping that wort from the sour brown I transferred onto the cake to keep it safe and covered won't change the color too much but will only add a deeper hue to the golden color to give it a bit more of that amber and deep fall color.  The aroma was very pleasant and similar to the young aroma of the last couple times I used this yeast.  A tad bit sulfury on the nose (which quickly dissipates as the yeast works and relaxes).  However the spice from the Rye and peppery notes from the yeast dominate this beer in most pleasant way.  I think it will play nice with the sweet/fruit contributions of the WLP645.  Also, lots of dark fruit in the nose.  The taste and the aroma aren't too far off from one another right now.  Again, I expect that to change as the beer matures. 
Post blending I was very happy with the color of the beer.  It is nice and amber hued almost looking burgundy/dark red.  Very excited to see how this beer ages.

10/10/2012 Sample
10/10/2012- Gravity down to 1.008. Fermentation is still happening but very slowly.  There wasn't a lot for the bugs to eat when I pitched it in but I do hope the yeast cake keeps developing.  Color is now deep golden/straw and much more clarified/brilliant than the sample in the picture to the right during transfer.  The bugs are doing a great job clearing things up.  Aroma is tart.  Horsey with lots of wet hay and grass.  Taste is dry and tart.  Not too fruity.  There were more fruity notes than I thought there would be given the aroma.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Harpale; Pale Ale Tasting Notes

Harpale Ale; Wyeast 1272 version

I was not sure quite how to face this beer.  I almost felt guilty for not paying as much attention to him as I did his split batch twin I dumped brettanomyces in.  This beer was really born into life as a control for the experiment I was doing in this batch to test out a yeast strain I had yet to use.  Maybe it is the new parent side of me coming out but I wish I would have given this beer a bit more attention during secondary fermentation.  Maybe he would have turned out to be a better finished beer than he did.

In all seriousness though, I do enjoy this beer.  There are a couple things I would do differently if I were to brew this entire 10 gallon batch again but I think I learned a lot of valuable lessons during this process.  Namely that I need to gain better control over my controls if I am to do something similar to this again.  To help with that I would likely do a 6 gallon split batch into two three gallon carboys instead of a big 11.5/12 gallon batch.

Look: This beer, much like it's brett counter part, is a bit higher on the SRM scale than what I was going for.  Beer pours a copper color with some lighter hues around the sides.  Beer is also pretty clear as this flocculates pretty well.  Good carbonation with a thick white head that quickly dissipates and leaves a nice thing white head throughout the duration of the glass. Minimal lacing.  I like the look of this beer.

The Nose: Nose is predominately simcoe when it pours mixed in with some light bitterness.  I was expecting and would like to have it be mostly Simcoe on the nose.  I have had good luck in the past with only an ounce for 24 hours or so and getting good results.  As the beer warms I get an ever so distant hint of what I think may be butterscotch (bummer).  I haven't been able to get that confirmed with anyone else who has tasted the beer, but then again, I also think the fermentation temp spiked a bit high during the final days of secondary.  Overall, when you put your nose in there you get Simcoe right up front, that fades a bit to some maltiness that is balanced out when you sip it.

Taste: Nice bitterness to balance out the malt. Finishes pretty dry.  Still has a nice malt body. Also get that nice citrus in the cheeks from the Amarillo.  Taste compliments the nose quite well.

Mouthfeel: Balanced. Dry but not so much so that you lose the body from the malt.  I think it may be a bit more swayed toward the malt body as I sip it.

Thoughts on moving forward: Good beer.  I am ok giving it to my friends and being excited to talk about it.  Would I enter it into a  It is easy drinking, not too high in ABV, and has a pleasant nose so that I will be drinking the bottles till they are gone as my daily after work beer. Very refreshing on the back porch as we watch the seasons change up here in Vermont.  Very nice indeed.  In moving forward I would like to up the late addition hops in weight to give it a bit more umph.  I could also likely accomplish this by upping the dry hop amount as well.  Next time, I'd give it as much as three ounces of Simcoe.  I am excited about this beer but wish I had ramped it up a bit on a couple fronts.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Harpale; Brett Brux Trois Tasting Notes

Harpale Ale; White labs 644; Brettanomyces Bruxellenis Trois Version

I haven't made a beer in a long time that I have been this excited to drink, share, and write about.  The bulk of the work came long before brew day.  I knew that I had wanted to brew a 100% brett fermented beer but did not know exactly which strain to use.  I had done some great secondary brett projects (Saison De Posey is a good example) in the past with WLP645 and some other East Coast Yeast  strains but I wasn't sure I wanted to do something in primary with those; and in the case of ECY, getting a hold of it up until recently was too difficult to plan around.

I have been brewing this recipe for quite some time as a good ol fashioned stand by that pleases me, my friends, and is relatively inexpensive to make and can be put together using mostly the bulk malts I keep around the house.  As the hops are usually the stand out in this recipe I knew I could back those back a bit and play with them in order to best compliment the hops.

There are a couple things that I would change about this beer the next time I brew it but, overall, I am very happy with this beer.

Appearance: The beer pours a deep copper color.  In the sunshine or up to a light you notice it is lighter and has more marmalade around the outer edges.  Beer pours hazy.  I imagine that is due to the brett as its' counter part is quite clear.  Big white head that stands tall but dissipates fairly quickly and is left with a bit of lacing and a thin white head that stays as the beer drinks.
I also would like this beer be a tad lighter.  It is still in the ballpark of where it should be for a Pale Ale but my preference is the lower end of the color scale for this style.

The Nose: This is where the beer really appeals to me.  The nose really hits you with tropical fruit with mango, a bit of pineapple, and peachyness comes through.  The hops really play into this and I am not sure exactly what percentage of the smell is what.  My wife gets a strong sense of papaya in the nose and ripe peaches.  She also feels a bit of coriander is there. There is also some nice spicy brett finish in the back end of the nose which would play nicely with a variety of hops.  I do not really get any/much malt on the nose.  I think I can pick it up as the beer warms but I may be wrong there.

Taste: The first thing I pick up is a slight brett tang in the cheeks that is very light and quickly takes second stage to the fruit you pick up in the nose.  It is nicely balanced though and one does not over power the other.  The back end is warm with a bit of alcohol, has hints of bitterness, and a tad of maltiness.

Mouthfeel: Dry. Not really any pucker that can come with some bretts.  The carbonation is great and isn't too effervescent.

Thoughts about moving forward:
This beer is really fun to drink.  It is complex enough to make you take a sip, swirl the glass, take another sip, and then smell it some more to get to the "bottom of it."  However, it isn't too complex that you can't drink a few in a row.  In moving forward, I think I would like to try this yeast with a less hoppy beer like a kolsch to get a really good idea of what this yeast can do.  As mentioned before, I would like to this beer be a tad lighter for my next go round with it.

Fletcher; Sour Brown

Fletcher; A Sour Brown

Granite bird bath & gear bowl
Last weekend was a busy weekend for me in terms of brewing.  I was able to bottle up a Pale Ale experiment I did with a couple different strains of yeast; both regular brewers yeast and Brettanomyces.  This was the clean version of Harpale Ale. I also brewed another Pale Ale for a competition here in New England this coming October.  Wish me luck.  Both the tasting notes from the Harpale Ale and the write up from the other brew day will be write ups this week.

This was also a big weekend for me in that my son, Harper William Parcell, was born shortly after this brew day was completed.  Talk about close timing.  He was 2 months early and is doing very well.  This beer will be special in that I will be drinking one every year on his birthday, starting with his 2nd birthday, with his mother till they are gone.  That will give it a couple of years relaxing in the carboy until bottling.  I was planning on doing this even before he came out shortly after pitching they yeast but now it seems more appropriate than ever.

As of late, I realized a while back, I have been consistently stepping out of my comfort zone with lots of things.  I got married about a year ago, started my family up, and am trying new things with brewing that could easily go wrong and negate a lot of hard work.  I really like the invigoration that it has caused me.  I haven't felt so motivated to research, sample, and try new things since I began piecing together information from lots of sources to begin all grain brewing some number of years ago.
Little sour treat for brew day

This journey into wild/sour beers, aging, oak, and other such things has been great.  I have met lots of new people who are just as passionate about the subject as me and who love to share information and experiences.  They are also helping me out by tasting my beers and providing me with great constructive feedback and criticism when necessary.  The home brew community is a wonderful place.

P.S. The beer is named Fletcher after Fletcher Allen Children's Hospital, the place where he was born and is still hanging out until he is ready to come home.  Those folks there are truly amazing, caring, calm, and wonderful people.

Recipe, Notes, & Details

·         7 lbs German Pilsner
·         .5 lbs Flaked Maize
·         .75 lbsCaramunich
·         .75 lbsSpecial B
·         .25 Black Malt

·         152 for 60 min

·         75 min

·         1 oz Tradition at 75 min

Yeast & Adjuncts:
·         Primary Fermentation done with White Labs 001, no starter.
·         Added corn sugar to boost up gravity before ending boil
·         Secondary: vial of ECY01, 2 ounce medium toast oak that have been soaking in Pinot Noir for a few months, and the Pinot Noir.

·         Pre Boil: 1.035
·         Original Gravity: 1.042
·         Collected 6.5 gallons pre boil

·         30 seconds pure oxygen.

8/18/2012-  Brew day went fairly smoothly.  Very windy so the flame blew out a couple of times.  Caused the boil to be longer than expected, although actual time the wort was boiling was 75 minutes. 

My old road sign "wind screen"
Had to add corn sugar (not sure how much) to get gravity up to where I wanted it during the last 1o minutes or so of the boil.  I would dump some in and take a refractometer reading until it got where I needed it to be.

8/28/2012- Fermentation took off sometime after midnight on brew day.  Not sure when.  Has been fermenting well at about 69 degrees since then.  As soon as gravity tells me it is done, I'll be transferring to secondary and pitching the bugs, oak, and wine.

9/1/12- Racked to secondary. Gravity at 1.008.  Beer is beautiful.  Light brown with some hints of burgundy around the edges.  This beer is surprisingly clear right now considering the sacch yeast wasn't completely flocculated out.  The aroma was very malty.  You could really pick out the black malt and pils.  I already adore this beer and it has inspired me to take another go at a brown ale.  It has been about 2 years since my last brown ale brew.  Whew.  There is no aroma of hops when you get your nose in here but you can definitely taste the bitterness and how it balances out the malt character/body.
Pitched starter of ECY01 BugFarm into secondary as well.  I would estimate I pitched two vials full...not including the beer...that is just the yeast slurry.

9/5/2012- Racked 3lbs 10 ounces of cherries and 2 oz medium toast oak chips that had been soaking in some nice Pinot Noir (Pinot pitched too; about 12 oz).  Should be interesting.
Pellicle had already been forming from the ECY01 I pitched 4 days ago.  Not much head space left in the carboy.